David Levine

David Levine is the founder and CEO of award-winning mixed reality business DigitalBridge, a company which provides a room visualisation tool allowing consumers to see what your home-decoration products look like in their room

How augmented reality is transforming the retail showroom

Posted 18th Dec 2017

The rise of online shopping means that KBB retailers have had to put more focus on the customer experience, exploring new ways to gain the shopper’s attention. In this era of one-click ordering and next day deliveries, in-store shopping can no longer compete with e-commerce on a purely transactional basis. This is precisely why physical shopping needs to make the shift from a transactional environment to one which is more experiential for customers.

Fortunately, with the introduction of new technologies such as mixed, augmented – AR – and virtual reality – VR – which blur the lines between the real and digital worlds, retailers have the opportunity to revolutionise the in-store experience they offer consumers, boost customer engagement and in turn improve their bottom line.

While there will always be a place for the brick-and-mortar showroom, if high street retailers are to continue to attract and retain customers they will need to find ways to innovate and adapt the traditional showroom into a more exciting, interactive experience.

Transforming the high street showroom
The biggest change which needs to be made to showrooms is to make them more than the simple “sales spaces” we see today, giving customers an experience they simply can’t get online.

More and more big-name retailers are bringing the showroom to life and embracing the concept of “retailtainment” – bringing together the worlds of retail and entertainment to provide the customer with new, engaging experiences.

One great example was when Lacoste allowed shoppers to virtually “try on” their new range of trainers by superimposing the trainer around their foot, and then instantly share the results with their family and friends over social media.

This was a fantastic way to use this technology to move beyond the standardised idea of what a retail sales floor can offer, giving customers an unforgettable in-store experience which went far beyond ordinary racks of clothes and drab changing rooms to a far more exciting, social offering.

The key to successfully incorporating this technology into the traditional retail environment is to balance fun with usability. Customers appreciate software that takes the hassle out of shopping and truly aids them in their purchasing decision, saving them time and money, and they’ll show this appreciation through repeat business.

Overcoming the Imagination gap
One of the biggest sources of hassle currently afflicting retailers and customers alike is the problem of the imagination gap, which research shows affects nearly one in three shoppers.

The imagination gap here refers to when consumers are dissuaded from buying home interior products after being unable to effectively visualise how they will actually look in their home – a phenomenon which is costing home décor retail market billions in lost sales.

The kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms sector could benefit particularly strongly from this. New bathroom or kitchen projects represent significant investment of both time and money with customers taking an average of six months to decide to proceed.

This is where augmented reality comes in. AR visualisation technology essentially brings the showroom to your customers by allowing them to overlay to-scale models of these products onto their kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms at home. Consumers are able to imagine how these expensive purchases will look in their home, and therefore are far more likely to spend their money.

Considering that 56% of homeowners are planning to make some kind of home upgrade in 2017 - with budgets ranging from £500 to more than £3,000 per project – technology which aids customers in making on-the-spot buying decisions could potentially be worth millions – if not billions – to the home retail sector, enticing customers away from the computers and driving footfall back onto the high street, and most importantly, back into the showrooms.

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